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Aid to Dependent Children Offers Critical Assistance to Families in Need

 

Last week, Governor Ricketts used his administration’s first veto on LB 89, a bill to increase payment rates in the Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) program and ease a family’s transition off of the program. In order to better understand how this legislation would have helped children, it’s beneficial to examine how ADC works in Nebraska.

The Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) program has provided cash assistance to lower income  families since the passing of the Social Security Act by the U.S. Congress in 1936. Low income families who support a child under the age of 18 can receive this assistance if they meet certain eligibility requirements. The family must fall below a certain income level and adults must participate in the Employment First program if they are able to work. Families are allowed to receive ADC payments for a maximum of 5 years.

The ADC program has been an important tool for fighting poverty among low-income families with children by allowing them to afford basic necessities including rent, utilities, food, and/or clothing. The ADC program is also an important tool for keeping families together.  The most common reason kids enter the child welfare system in Nebraska, and the ADC program can help mitigate some of the financial issues that lead to neglect.  According to our Kids Count in Nebraska Report, an average of 14,350 children benefited from ADC each month in 2013. Since 2006, ADC enrollment in Nebraska has decreased from 21,481 to 14,350.

For some families who participate in the ADC program, this is the only form of income that they have to meet their basic needs. Yet, the average monthly payment in 2013 was a mere $326.17 per family and the maximum ADC allotment for Nebraska families has not increased in nearly 30 years. As a result, ADC payments are completely out of touch with the cost of living. This issue is what LB 89 attempted to address.

LB 89, introduced by Senator Campbell, would have increased the maximum ADC allotment gradually to 70% of the standard of need. You can read our full testimony in support of LB 89 here. Unfortunately, this bill was vetoed by the governor. However, in consultation with Governor Ricketts, Senator Campbell drafted an amendment to an existing bill, LB 607, which makes an effort to include some of the provisions in LB 89, including a smaller increase in the ADC benefit for families. The bill with this amendment is currently awaiting consideration by the full Legislature.

We hope that the Legislature will include an amendment to LB 607 to increase payments in the ADC program for the first time in decades and ease the transition off of the program.

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